At mile 70, I said I’m done.
I didn’t want to go on. The race hadn’t gone the way I wanted, and my torched hip was bleeding doubts into my mind.
My crew didn’t argue, there was no thinking; it was “I’m done” and we were walking away from the aid station toward our transport.
I felt fine. It was relief and silence; no one spoke.
Crawling into bed that night, I knew I made the right decision.
Waking up the next day, and for weeks after, that right decision haunted me.
[3 Things I Learned From My 100 Mile DNF]
I quit, there is no other explanation necessary.
Last night, over eight months later, I almost quit again.
I caught myself. This one would have been easier to explain: I got a flat tire at 8:30 PM riding my bike home from work. It’s a 9 mile ride, and I was only four miles in; I was 5 miles away from dinner and a hot shower.
My girlfriend offered to come bring me a spare tube or a lift home. I went to check Uber XL prices.
Then I stopped.
This is the question I should have asked at Umstead 100, when I walked away after 70 miles.
“Why did you come here?”
I couldn’t see through the fog of pain and disappointment; my goal time was slipping with my stacking nausea and muscle strain.
I went there for challenge and discomfort, for miles and the finish line.
I went to finish.
When I reached for my phone last night, wondering if I should take my girlfriend up on a ride or hail an Uber, I asked myself this question: WHY? Why do you ride your bike to and from work in the cold?
It’s the question I should have asked that cold April night: WHY?
I ride my bike home for the commitment to an active lifestyle, for the extra time out of breath, and for the practice of slowing down–patience. It’s a rejection of rehearsed haste and road rage, of reliance and heated-leather-seat relief.
Things Go Wrong
Just like Umstead 100 went wrong with nausea and strained muscles, my bike ride went wrong with a shard of metal sunk in my tire.
Things go wrong.
Things going wrong should never alter a person’s commitment to the mission. My mission last night was traveling home under my own power for the sake of exercise, patience, and mental training for the crucible that is the ultra marathon.
My mission 8 months ago in April was to cross the finish line for the sake of the person I am called to be, for the Taller Peak.
I ‘Ubered’ away at mile 70, unwilling to see the mission through because things went wrong, the race did not unfold how I intended.
I took the easy way out.
I neglected the responsibility I have in signing up for ultra marathons: to let my life be driven by an instinct for meaning, for purpose.
Last night, 5 dark and cold miles from home, I decided I would not repeat what happened at Umstead.
I decided against the quick and easy path, the phone call or the Uber ride.
I decided to be responsible for the future-me, out running some 100 mile race, cold and tired and beat down, ready to say those words again: “I’m done.”
I decided to put my bike on my shoulder and walk.
For the sake of the person I am called to be, for the Taller Peak.
Revisit Your Quits
This week on Instagram, I posted the following picture. It may have been divine intervention that I wrote those words only a day before getting that flat tire, the one that made me ask WHY?
“Be better than the you who came short,” I captioned the picture.
Last night, that was the decision I made. I decided to be better than the guy who walked away from that 100 mile race, the crucible that is the ultra marathon.
When the easy road shines so bright that it’s hard to see the truth of your mission, your goal, ask yourself one question: Why did I come here?
Then put one foot in front of the other, and carry on.
Stay on the Wicked Trail…